Supreme Court nominee Q&A was a big, fat nothing-burger save for resurrecting the SNC Lavalin scandal

Apart from dredging up government scandals from the past, Parliament’s hearings for Supreme Court nominee Nicholas Kasirer’s selection to the country’s top bench were all but a formality Thursday afternoon in Ottawa.

Jason Unrau Montreal QC

Apart from dredging up government scandals from the past, Parliament’s hearings for Supreme Court nominee Nicholas Kasirer’s selection to the country’s top bench were all but a formality Thursday afternoon in Ottawa.

Unlike the frightening tumult recently witnessed in the United States during its appointment process that saw Brett Kavanaugh nominated – a highly partisan affair bolstered by media frenzy – Canada’s process is a much simpler, low-profile affair.

Our Attorney General, in this case David Lametti, was provided a shortlist of applicants curated by an advisory committee chaired by former PM Kim Campbell.

Lametti then discussed this list among folks like Canada’s Chief Justice, Richard Wagner, relevant provincial attorneys general, and MPs across the aisle, whereby Lametti reported to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and he picked one.

During an afternoon question-and-answer session with MPs and Senators, Kasirer said his desire to sit on the Supreme Court was for a love of the law, only superseded by what Trudeau would describe as ‘work-life balance’:

“The first is, I love the work I do as a Judge. Some people might of apply for a position like this out of a mere sense of duty. It’s not my case. I love my work,” he told lawmakers at a question-and-answer.

“Secondly,…I felt that my 10 years of experience at the court, my life in university and my interest in civil law, were aspects that might be of interest to the prime minister.”

“And most importantly, it’s a good time for my family… I have three children at university, my partner who’s an artist and has worked in Ottawa before. And that weighed quite heavily in my choice.”

During the morning question-and-answer with Lametti and Campbell, the latter chiming in via closed-circuit television from British Columbia, Conservative Justice critic Lisa Raitt first asked Lametti if he had taken steps on a deferred prosecution agreement for SNC-Lavalin.

“I’ve said many times both in the House of Commons and in other public fora, including in front of the press, I make no comment on anything with respect to that file.  Anything that I can or might say might have an impact on ongoing litigation and therefore I’m very careful in that regard,” replied Lametti.

In short, if he decide to offer a deferred prosecution agreement, you will read about it in Canada Gazette.

Moving right along to media leaks from the Supreme Court selection process itself, in particular, a disputed appointment of chief justice back in 2017, which was only reported in March of this year.

According to the story, then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were at loggerheads over Manitoba Superior Court Chief Justice Glenn Joyal’s possible appointment.

Joyal had spoken publicly about the Supreme Court’s broad interpretation of the Charter that in some cases amounted to activism and usurped power from elected legislators.

Trudeau ended up winning the argument and Wagner would ultimately get the nod.  Raitt then turned her sights on Campbell.

“As you know, there was a leak that occurred in the last process that you chaired. When did you learn about the leak from the last process you chaired?” Raitt asked.

“Well, I can say that the leak was not from our process,” said Campbell in response.

The Canadian Press story was based on an anonymous source and was published a week before Trudeau turfed Wilson-Raybould from the Liberal caucus for insubordination. The leak also sparked an investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Wilson-Raybould was at the centre of a scandal that engulfed the Trudeau government at the beginning of 2019, after it was revealed top PMO staffers, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the nation’s former top bureaucrat Michael Wernick, pressured her to divert SNC-Lavalin’s trial for bribery and corruption charges.

When she refused to do so, Trudeau demoted the country’s first Indigenous attorney general to the ministry of Veterans Affairs, before expunging her from caucus.

Asked how Campbell’s committee protected against leads coming from Kasirer’s selection process, the former-Progressive Conservative leader and first female prime minister said on top of confidentiality agreements and secured tablets, members were also wary of their conduct.

“If anything, we were sort of tip-toeing around often afraid among ourselves ourselves,” said Campbell. “And when we ate dinner together we went someplace where people wouldn’t even realize who we are and what we were doing.

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